Articles for the Month of December 2014

How To Avoid Family Conflict During the Holidays

Does your great uncle understand the concept of glad tidings and goodwill? Will harmony and happiness even have a chance in a room with your kids and your brother’s brood? If coming together for the holidays is a recipe for conflict and chaos, you’re not alone. To preserve your hope that this year could result in at least one album of merry memories, consult the following tips for a harmonious holiday season:


Step One: Make merry in your mind.

Store up happy feelings before gathering with your family. Consider what the holidays mean to you.Play holiday music. Decorate to your heart’s content. Shop for a few special gifts.Take the time to set yourself up for a good time.

Here are a few ways to put yourself in a jolly mood.

1. Mentally prepare.

Your family is what it is.

Visualize the inevitable annoying conversations or criticism.

Develop a healthy desire to let things lie.

2. Keep your expectations realistic.

Avoid hoping the season will bring Hallmark movie resolutions to old problems.

Attempting to make everything Pinterest-perfect will only add to the tension.

Simply accept some of your family’s messiness.

3. Be aware of your thoughts.

It’s easy to get sucked into old family patterns.

Recognize the problems that will arise.

Challenge the negative thinking that can come between you an your loved ones.

Step Two: Greet the season with diplomacy.

If conflict is a routine part of your family gatherings, communication breakdowns, childish meltdowns, and veiled putdowns may come with the territory.

To avoid conflict, a peace-keeping family relations policy may be useful to keep arguments at a minimum and minimize misunderstandings.

1. Remain as neutral as possible.

To avoid conflict, minimize talk of politics, religion, and lifestyle choices.

When things get tense, set aside differences, and do your best to remain calm and mature.

Early in the conversation, head off a persistent, troublemaking relative by changing the subject, directing him or her to another person, or heading for another room.

2. Be inclusive and compassionate.

Acknowledge that the holidays are stressful for everyone.

For some, holidays are filled with nostalgia. For others the season is very painful.

Try to recognize that your family brings varying experiences to the holiday table.

Extend as much grace and open-minded consideration as you can.

3. Engage thoughtfully.

Prioritize tact, fight to remain positive, and pick your battles.

If things get ugly or abusive, communicate clear boundaries.

Reserve the right to walk away if they are violated.

Step Three. Set limits. Don’t let the lights, lists, or labor kill your holiday spirit.

Gathering, hosting, or traveling can take its toll on you physically and mentally.

Take time to rest and regroup when you feel rundown or irritated.

You’ll be less likely to take the bait when approached by a critical or confrontational relative or instigate conflict out of crankiness or exhaustion.

You may also find it prudent to set up an established “safe zone,” or private getaway from pushy relatives. It may be a needed escape when frustrations or tensions arise.

Finally, it may be wise to set time limits on family visits. 2 or 3 hours together may be more than enough to celebrate the season before heading home.

The holidays are hectic and fraught with traditions and expectations.

Many of which may or may not make for joy and peace.

However, remember that soon decorations will be stored and the feasting complete.

Try to be grateful for a season with a little less drama.

And one more year, spent with the people you love.

Describing Death to A Child


Just the word, said out loud or written that way, with just the period behind it, seems somehow taboo and uncomfortably final.It makes us uneasy.Moreover, we know how hard death is to explain to ourselves.How do you discuss death with a child? You may want to skirt the topic altogether.But death, too often, is feared and misunderstood in the mind of a child.Your child needs you to explain it, or he or she risks coming away with fear and anxiety born from misinformation or their own imaginations.So, how do you describe the process and finality of death to a little one?

You may need some help with that.

Consider some of these key points for helping a child understand death and dying:

Don’t Dismiss Your Child’s Perceptions of Death. 

Be sure to listen to what your child says or asks. He is thinking about it, especially if the loss is personal. Talk to him so that a healthy, realistic perspective is retained from the experience.

Take into account your child’s age and development. Ideas of finality develop over time. Answering questions in a manner that is age-appropriate is usually best.

Kids grieve too. Developed by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the familiar grief model, which includes denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, can be witnessed in children. Simply let it play out naturally, for however long, and support your child as she expresses her thoughts, confusion, and struggles.

Consider the Circumstances of Your Child’s Exposure to Death.

Expected Death. Preparation is important. Resist the urge to send him away with no time to adjust to the loss. Talk to him about what he witnessed and discuss openly any feelings that are negative or ambivalent, as well as sad. Use clear language, rather than puzzling phrasing like “resting in peace.” Discuss how a dying person’s body eventually slows down and stops working completely. You might also take the opportunity to use unemotional illustrations like the cycle of life and death in nature. Make every effort to hear your child’s need for reassurance, accept varying involvement throughout the death process, and listen to conclusions he reaches about death.
Sudden Death. In this circumstance, reassure your child of her safety and avoid confusion. Try not to use misleading phrases like “went away” or “took a long trip.” The loss, coupled with those types of ideas, may cause fear or give your child the sense that the loss is temporary. Validate your child’s emotions and maintain perspective by assuring your child that sudden deaths are not everyday events. Share your own feelings calmly and supportively, to avoid amplifying any anxiety. Be prepared to seek the assistance of a counselor if depression or withdrawal becomes an issue.

Suicidal death. This explanation may require you to answer your child’s “why?” with an honest “I don’t know.” Shannon Karl, a grief expert and member of the American Counseling Association, suggests that parents clearly relate that the deceased person “died from suicide” rather committed suicide. If your child expresses guilt, reassure him that he is not to blame. Talk about how a person can have sickness in his or her mind that leads to that type of choice, with little specific detail about the manner of death.

Effective, ongoing communication is key for developing your child’s healthy coping skills and perceptions regarding death. Sometimes adult grief, anxiety, or relationships may hinder a child’s grasp of the topic. If you need help discussing death or helping your child manage grief, consider the assistance of an experienced grief counselor who can provide encouraging guidance and support